SLEEPWALKER by Michael Cadnum


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Silly doings about a reanimated corpse subvert Cadnum's second horror novel, which otherwise features language as elegant and imagery as macabre as in his masterful first, Nightlight (p. 4). Cadnum's death-obsessed story starts sharply, with hero David Lowry, archeologist and grieving widower, waking up naked in a eucalyptus grove outside his apartment building. Davis makes it back home, but the next night his somnambulism--accompanied by nightmares of his dead wife gliding toward him--finds him teetering on the balcony of his 12th-story apartment: reason enough to flee his California teaching post for work at a dig in York, England. Meanwhile, at the dig, which has been plagued by accidents and weirdly moving objects, archrival archeologist Peter Chambers unearths a historic find--a perfectly preserved "bog man" dating from the eighth century. Soon after Davis arrives, serious trouble erupts as Chambers, as if under a spell, reverts to his sadistic boyhood ways, torturing cats and casting a cold eye on his fellow diggers; then the bog man mysteriously disappears, leaving its guardian near-dead from fright. Is the ancient corpse alive? Maybe, think Davis and his spunky assistant/lover; but maybe not, for Chambers is soon shown--in effectively eerie scenes--gloating over the stolen body and mimicking it in the dead of night in order to scare Davis to death. The question is resolved with violence--stranglings, an amputation--and a fanfare of hocus-pocus and hokey melodrama that conjures up the classic horror-film image of The Mummy staggering through a primeval swamp, a damsel caught in his rotting arms. Cadnum should stick to quiet, allusive horror, at which he excels; here, his evocative but strained effort to illustrate death's dominions leads to a fractured, overwrought tale.

ISBN: 312-04995-1
Publisher: St. Martin's
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